The Government has this morning confirmed its plans for the immigration regime that will take effect when free movement ends at the end of this year.

Unsurprisingly, the new immigration scheme is based on Tier 2 of the existing Points Based system.  The key points are:

  • Free movement will end on 31 December 2020. After this point, EU and non-EU nationals will be treated the same way in terms of eligibility to enter the UK.
  • Migrants will need to score 70 points to obtain a work visa.
  • Points will be scored for 
    1. A job offer from an approved sponsor. 
    2. A job at the right skill level. (Going forwards, the roles will need to be at RQF Level 3 or above i.e. A'Level equivalent or above.)
    3. English language ability
    4. A salary at the appropriate level.  Scoring points for salaries will be on a sliding scale. The starting point is that people earning between £23,040 and £25,999 will earn 10 points and those with £25,600 or above will earn the full 20 points in this category. Anyone earning below £20,480 would not be eligible for entry at all. Be aware that a throw away comment in the statement suggests that higher salary rate thresholds might be applied for specific roles. (This will be one to watch as the specific details of the scheme are announce.)
  • Shortage occupation roles (as defined by the Migration Advisory Committee) will also score additional points.
  • Points will also be available for PhDs in a subject relevant to the role in question or in a STEM subject.
  • There will be no general low-skilled or temporary worker route.  

On the plus side, the Resident Labour Market Test will be abolished, which will be a welcome relief for employers.

The Government has also indicated that the current sponsor license regime will be simplified (although they haven't indicated exactly how) to reduce the administrative burden on sponsors.

Interestingly, the Government has confirmed there will be no specific route of entry for the self-employed; EU nationals wishing to work on a on a self employed basis when free movement ends will need to try and qualify under another immigration route. The Government statement suggests using the entrepreneurial routes - such as the innovator/start up routes. However, all evidence points to the fact that these routes are not working well in practice and this won't be a solution for businesses who engage significant numbers of EU workers - whether that be agency staff (for example those working in the logistics/distribution sectors) or businesses reliant on contractors.

These proposals have been met with widespread criticism from many sectors that rely on "low skilled"/"low paid" workers from the EU, particularly the leisure/hospitality sector, the retail sector and the care sector. 

The CBI commented that many businesses would be "left wondering how they will recruit the people needed to run their businesses".

The Government statement states that the new routes will be open from Autumn 2020. It also states:

Employers not currently approved by the Home Office to be a sponsor should consider doing so now if they think they will want to sponsor skilled migrants, including from the EU, from early 2021.

I would second this as a call to action to get ready for the 2021 changes. 

We regularly help employers obtain licenses and navigate the immigration system so if you aren't currently a sponsor and think you might need to recruit non-UK workers next year, please get in touch.